The Midgard Serpent (jormundgard) wrote in vg_review,
The Midgard Serpent

The Fool's Errand - 7.2/10

The Fool's Errand is a unique puzzle game designed by Cliff Johnson in the mid-1980's. He has also designed the excellent "3 in Three", as well as a series of newer games in the 1990s (and perhaps later).

On the surface, the game is nothing more than a series of puzzles, where solving one releases another. But each puzzle reveals another piece of the story, which was written around the cards of the Tarot deck. In a detached way, you are the "Fool" of the deck, on a quest to find the lost 14 treasures of the kingdom. In a few spots, clues to the puzzles are embedded into the story. And finally, after all of the puzzles have been completed (or so you think), it's revealed to you that the story itself is one massive puzzle.

It was originally released for the classic Macintosh (from the old black-and-white days), and a PC version was made some years later. It may have also been ported to other platforms, such as the Amiga.

~ Graphics: The graphics are not complex and are of moderately low resolution. But they effectively communicate the relevant information. The majority of the game consists of word puzzles and simple graphical puzzles. The original Macintosh graphics were monochrome. The PC version contains color, but to me it acts more to distract from the puzzles than to enhance the game. Despite all of this, even the Macintosh version could be made to look better today, so I treat them as "effective, but outdated".

Graphics: (3/5)

~ Sound: Since it's a puzzle game and was released for the original Macintosh, there is little to no sound at all. But I don't feel that it detracts from the game in any way; sound would have been perhaps inappropriate. The sound is neither "irritating" nor "excellent" because it doesn't exist. For lack of a better rating...

Sound: (3/5)

~ Interface: The interface is immediately obvious, when necessary. In rare instances, the interface itself is turned into a puzzle (which is part of the game's brilliance). The puzzles are simple enough to immediately comprehend, and the game fully incorporated the (new, for it's era) Macintosh interface by using the menus to quickly jump between puzzles. Solved and unsolved puzzles are also identified in the menus. The mouse is perfectly incorporated into the game to allow simple manipulation the graphical puzzles.

NB: The PC interface tries to emulate the Macintosh version, but fails on a number of levels.

Interface: (5/5)

~ Replay value: I expect that there is not tremendous replay value, which is probably common with puzzle games. I still remember the tricks to many puzzles, even after 10+ years. But the game is very aesthetically pleasing, so there is some small replay value in that. The story which evolves alongside the puzzles is also fun to read. But I think that these are unusual reasons to replay a game, akin to nostaliga, so won't let them weigh heavily.

Replay Value: (1/5)

~ Gameplay: The game is "perfect" in terms of what I expect from a puzzle game. The puzzles are interesting. A number are similar, but these are a comforting relief from the incredibly challenging ones, especially those that require you to think "outside of the box" - sometimes literally! The play between the story, which is slowly revealed through solving puzzles, and the puzzles is what makes this game so compelling for me.

Gameplay: (15/15)

Enjoyment: The game is fun to me, but perhaps I'm thinking of the memories. There are many puzzle branches to follow, so that you don't need to do each puzzle in succession (a definite plus). But eventually you'd run all of these branches dry and would get frustrated. As a small saving grace, there are a rare few "Keys to the Book of Thoth" which can allow you to bypass particularly irritating puzzles. So this frustration is an addressed issue, but it's an issue which is impossible to completely solve. Part of the problem is that humans only seem to like adversity, and the eventual triumph over it (can the philosophy, Marshall). In any case, this game is more of a challenge than a good time, so should be rated as such.

Enjoyment: (9/15)

TOTAL: 36 * .2 = 7.2/10

Summary: Maybe a little "artsy", if that's possible for a computer game. But in my mind, it is the pinnacle of puzzle games. It remains both artsy and fun. It's also difficult to rate this game with the scale presented, but that may just be my tastes, and the sort of things I look for.

I suggest that you play this soon-to-be-forgotten game, which I consider a rare masterpiece.

Download it here.
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